Standing prominently near the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey presented an unmistakable allure when first entering the city from the rail station. It was first on my list of items for the day, so after eating an incredible English breakfast I headed towards the city center.
Entering the Abbey is free (albeit with a suggested donation) and they also offer a tour of the bell tower for £6. The tour, consisting of a club through two stairwells for a total of 212 steps offered views of the city and the Roman Baths that are wholly unique. They also take you behind the face of the clock tower to see its surprisingly simple mechanism.
Our guide, Ottilie, made sure to mention that the clock tower faces north (which is different from the expected western direction) because the clock was placed to face the market square so the residents of Bath could easily tell the time.
Once the clock was moved in the 18th century, it would chime four times a day: Once at one past nine in the morning to tell people to go to work. Again at one past one in the afternoon for lunch. Once again at one past five to send people home. And lastly at one past nine in the evening to ring a close to the day.
The picture of the bell in the bell tower has an interesting story behind it as well. The inscription reads “All you of Bathe that heare me [calling down] thank Lady Hopkins hundred pounds” (I am approximating the section in brackets). This particular bell had a crack in it that required repair. Lady Hopkins promised £100 for its repair (at the time the equivalent of about £20000) but only relinquished £5 before her death. As the engraving had already been completed, her family was then responsible for the remainder of the payments.
While listening to the story about the bells while sitting in the tower, I found a cable attached that seemed to run to the automatic mechanism that we had be shown earlier. I asked about it, and as if on cue the bells started chiming for half past the hour. Even Ottilie, who I am sure has *never* experienced this during her *years* of service at the Abbey, jumped when the bells chimed.
All in all, Bath Abbey was one of the more interesting places that I visited in Bath and is absolutely worth the visit. I headed straight over to the Roman Baths, hoping to catch the guided tour that takes place on the hour (with only ten minutes to find my way!)
To be continued…